Kimi Raikkonen has ended the morning session fastest overall for Ferrari, after reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton spun in the Mercedes. However, the Briton still managed to enjoy a productive morning, ending third fastest with rookie Max Verstappen second in the Toro Rosso.
Once again the day began with damp track conditions, despite clear skies overhead. This led to Pirelli’s Cinturato intermediate and full wet tyres being utilised during early stages of the morning session, with Hamilton and Raikkonen becoming the first drivers to leave the confines of the pit-lane. The duo were soon joined out on the track by Marcus Ericsson and Verstappen, with Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa also venturing out onto the track.
Whilst many drivers immediately elected to return to the pits after their first exploratory laps’ of the damp circuit, Ericsson continued circulating to produce the first timed lap of the day with a 01:58.596 in the Sauber. However, the Swede’s rather slow benchmark was soon thwarted by the Red Bull of Kvyat, who eventually managed to work his way down to a 01:37.195.
After the initial flurry of track activity, only the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean had yet to complete a lap, with the Frenchman in particular making his first appearance of the test. Eventually the McLaren of Button prepared to leave his garage, only to stall after inching several feet forward. The mechanics managed to push the Briton back into the garage to restart the car, and he eventually joined the action moments later.
However Button only managed to complete one exploratory lap before quickly returning to the pits, where the McLaren mechanics proceeded to remove the bodywork of the Honda-powered machine and investigate the rear of the car, with more issues seemingly occurring on the car. Meanwhile the first red flag delay of the day occurred out on the track, after the Red Bull of Kvyat came to a halt around turn nine with an ERS issue on his car.
Once the Renault-powered car was cleared, Verstappen was quick to get proceedings back underway. The Dutch rookie immediately catapulted himself to the top with a 01:37.170, a time which the Toro Rosso driver soon managed to improve upon, eventually working his way down to a 01:35.221. Raikkonen soon responded to Verstappen’s constant improvements, with the Finn rising up to the top with a 01:33.022 in the Ferrari.
With the track quickly drying out after the damp conditions to begin with, Ericsson and Hamilton soon became the first drivers to opt for dry tyres, which in turn enabled Hamilton to assert his authority over proceedings with a 01:28.977. The reigning World Champion soon produced successive improvements to work his way down to a 01:26.998, before Raikkonen bolted on the dry tyres as well and responded with a 01:25.441.
As Raikkonen worked his way down to a 01:25.011 after several faster laps, Grosjean finally managed to produce his first timed lap of the day for Lotus with a 01:27.255. Despite the almost bulletproof reliability of the Mercedes throughout the opening test, it was Hamilton who caused the second red flag delay of the day after a spin between turns eleven and twelve. However, the Briton was soon retrieved and after only forty minutes was back out on the track again.
Once again Verstappen was the first driver to return to the track, in doing so returning to the top with a 01:24.705. However, Raikkonen was quick to respond with a 01:24.104 and soon found himself producing successive fastest laps once again on his way to a 01:23.200. Meanwhile Button finally managed to return to the track after roughly a two-hour delay, where the McLaren mechanics had to remove the floor to inspect the engine. The Briton soon added his name to the timing sheets with a 01:30.706.
As the morning session drew to a conclusion Grosjean, Ericsson and Massa traded third position, with the latter completing minimal running after the team elected to simply wait for the track to dry earlier in the session. Button once again suffered difficulties returning to the track, however the Briton soon managed to fire up his McLaren and complete a handful of laps with a personal best of a 01:28.309.